Dr. Stefanie Riemer

Group Leader Companion Animal Behaviour Group

Division of Animal Welfare

+41 31 631 24 28
Postal Address
Division of Animal Welfare
Vetsuisse Faculty
University of Bern
Längassstrasse 120
CH 3012 Bern

Current research

  • Dog Behaviour Decoded – Emotional Expressions in Canis familiaris 
  • Reward sensitivity in dogs – risk factor for addictive behaviour and key to trainability (SNF Ambizione Project PZ00P3_174221)
  • Reducing fear in dogs at the vets
  • Behavioural strategies in dogs during firework exposure
  • Preference for constant vs varied reinforcement in pet dogs

Research Project


We study behaviour, cognition and emotions in companion dogs. Our participants are normal pet dogs, who are volunteered by their owners to participate. Thanks to positive reinforcement in the form of treats and play, our subjects usually take part in our studies with great enthusiasm.

I graduated with a BSc in Animal Behaviour and Environmental Biology from Anglia Ruskin University, UK, with a thesis on captive spectacled bears. For my MSc project at University of Vienna, Austria, I studied the ecology of five woodpecker species at the Donauauen National Park in Lower Austria. I went on to do my PhD on behavioural development and physical cognition in domestic dogs at the Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, and at the Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. During my PhD I spent four months as a visiting researcher at the University of Lincoln, UK, to carry out a study on impulsivity in dogs. After finishing my PhD project in Vienna, I returned to Lincoln to work on the project “thermographic assessment of animal emotions”. This was followed by a postdoctoral research fellowship, also in Lincoln, on the successive negative contrast effect (or sensitivity to reward change) in dogs. I am now pursuing my interest in animal emotions, cognition and behaviour further with research projects on pet dogs’ emotional expression and reward sensitivity at the University of Berne.

Recent Publications

20) Riemer S., Thompson H. & Burman OHP (2018) Behavioural responses to unexpected changes in reward quality. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 16652. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-35056-5

19) Bremhorst, A., Bütler, S., Würbel, H., & Riemer, S. (2018). Incentive motivation in pet dogs–preference for constant vs varied food rewards. Scientific reports8(1), 9756.

18) Riemer S., Ellis, SLH, Thompson H. & Burman OHP (2018) Reinforcer effectiveness in dogs – the influence of quantity and quality. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 206,87-93.

17) Turcsán, B., Wallis, L., Virányi, Z., Range, F., Müller, C.A., Huber, L. & Riemer, S. (2018). Personality traits in companion dogs—Results from the VIDOPET. PloS One, 13(4), e0195448.

16) Riemer S (2017). Social dog—emotional dog?. Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling, 2(14), 9.

15) Riemer S, Assis L, Pike T & Mills D (2016) Dynamic changes in ear temperature in relation to separation distress in dogs. Physiology & Behavior 167, 86-91.

14) Riemer, S., Müller, C., Virányi, Z., Huber, L., & Range, F. (2016). Individual and group level trajectories of behavioural development in Border collies. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 180, 78–86.

13) Thompson, H., Riemer, S., Ellis, S. L., & Burman, O. H. (2016). Behaviour directed towards inaccessible food predicts consumption—A novel way of assessing food preference. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 178, 111-117.

12) Riemer S, Ellis, SL, Ryan S, Thompson H & Burman OH (2016). A reappraisal of successive negative contrast in two populations of domestic dogs. Animal Cognition, 19(3), 471-481.

11) Müller C, Riemer S, Virányi Zs, Huber L & Range F (2016). Inhibitory Control, but Not Prolonged Object-Related Experience Appears to Affect Physical Problem-Solving Performance of Pet Dogs. PloS one, 11(2), e0147753.